Tropical Rainforests Week

Tropical Rainforests

Period: 1-7 March 2021

This week we are going to find out about Tropical Rainforests! Rainforests are Earths oldest living ecosystems and have been around for at least 70 million years!

They are also home to more than half of the worlds plant and animals species, but they only cover 6% of Earths surface. What sort of animals and plants do you think live in rainforests? Where precisely in the world are the rainforests?

Why are they so crucial to our planet? Follow us on a rainforest adventure!

Tropical Rainforests Week
Tropical Rainforests Week

Sections


Activities

What Are Rainforests?

To put it simply a rainforest is an area of tall, mostly evergreen, trees that has a high amount of rainfall. Sounds like a forest in Scotland? But it also has to have a warm climate - hence the title Tropical Rainforest. They are found near the equator which means the weather will be much warmer.

Rainforests are very important for the well-being of our planet as they help to regulate our climate and they provide us with many everyday products.

Rainforests are made up of four layers and because each layer receives a different amount of sunlight and rainfall it means that different animals and plant species are found in each layer.

Emergent

This is where the tallest trees are found and where the most sunlight is available. These trees can often be 200 feet tall and as much as 16 feet wide! You will discover eagles and monkeys and bats and butterflies at this level.

Canopy

The canopy is the primary layer of the rainforest, and it forms a type of roof over the remaining two layers. The leaves of the trees here are often oval and come to a point. This layer has such a large amount of available food that it attracts lots of animals such as snakes and toucans, and treefrogs!

Understory

There is not much sunshine getting to this level, so the plants have to grow their leaves larger to catch whatever rays manage to reach through. You will find lots of animals here such as jaguars and leopards and lots and lots of insects!

Forest Floor

It is very dark here and there will not be very many plants growing. Leaves and other plant materials decompose very quickly here - much faster than in a normal climate. You will find giant anteaters here! Head over to the recycle box and have a go at making your own rainforest layer. Use our worksheet to help you.

Rainforests of the World

Let's have a closer look at some of the rainforests around the world.

We are sure you have heard of the Amazon Rainforest, but there are others too. Remember it has to be warm and wet and close to the equator. Large areas of South America, Africa and Asia have tropical climates, and rainforests can be found in all of these places.

The worlds most interesting and largest rainforests are Amazon, in South America Daintree, on the northeast coast of Australia and the Congo Basin in Central Africa.

YouTube Video: Rainforest Animals
Make a Rainforest Layer Model
Make a Rainforest Layer Model (PDF)

Daintree Rainforest

Let's start with Daintree - the worlds oldest rainforest! It is estimated to be 180 million years old.

This rainforest is home to thousands of species of birds and wildlife. So far, 12,000 species of insects have been found in the Daintree Forest - that’s lots of food for the bats and birds that live here too!

This rainforest combines mountain ranges and streams, and waterfalls, along with deep gorges and dense forest.

It's not just about the animals and plants, the Kuku Yalanji people are the traditional owners of the rainforest and have lived there for over 50,000 years!

The wildlife in Daintree is many and varied. We like the Cassowary! It has often been called “the worlds most dangerous bird”. Although they are not keen on being near humans and will hide, they will attack if provoked and can give a nasty injury to humans with their claws! You can see a Cassowary in Edinburgh Zoo.

Southern Cassowary at Edinburgh Zoo

They eat mainly fruit and grass seeds but will also eat bugs and small mammals! The Cassowary can run around 50 km per hour and can jump around 1.5m high!

Southern Cassowary
A free ranging Southern Cassowary

There are many different kinds of reptiles living in Daintree, such as goannas - this is a lizard with sharp teeth and claws. The goannas sometimes lay their eggs in termite mounds as they are protected from predators, and the babies can get a tasty meal when they hatch!

Goanna
A Goanna at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane Australia

All 5 Australian frog species can be found in this region - in fact the largest tree frog in the world lives here - the Giant White Lipped Tree Frog.

White Lipped Tree Frog
White Lipped Tree Frog

It can reach up to 14cm in length. It has a loud barking call, but when it is in distress, it makes a cat-like sound. It eats insects and arthropods and can live for over ten years!

Why not try making a frog with the help of our worksheet. There is a tree that grows in Australias Daintree Forest known as the Idiot Fruit Tree but also known as the Green Dinosaur. It is the oldest and most distinctive of trees in Australia, and it does not grow anywhere else in the world.

The seeds from the Idiospermum australiense - that’s the scientific name is very large - the size of a human fist! The oldest known fossils of the tree date back 120 million years so that is how it gets its dinosaur name.

Termite Mound
Termite Mound in Australia

The Congo Basin

The Congo Basin is the second largest tropical rainforest on Earth and is often called the lungs of Africa!

Not only does it have an amazing and diverse range of plants and animals but it also is home to local indigenous people. Many of the animals who live there are critically endangered and there are 39 species of animal that are found nowhere else on the planet! The Congo River drains water from the area known as the Congo Basin which is covered with tropical rainforests and swamps.

There are more than 600 different tree species here and around 10,000 different animals. You will know about elephants and of course the gorillas and chimps, but there are also hippos and lions. Sadly many of the trees in the rainforest are being cut down for timber and to allow more people to live on the edges of the rain forest. Roads have to be build to allow large logging lorries to take out the wood so there are less paths for the elephants to travel. There are plans to try to slow the rate of deforestation by granting local villagers large areas of the forest so they can live there and claim ownership to stop the big companies coming to cut down the trees. There are small signs that it may be working!

A really interesting animal in the Congo is the okapi also know as the Congolese giraffe or zebra giraffe. Although it has stripy legs like a zebra it is much more closely related to a giraffe. You can see in the picture that it has a giraffe like face!

Okapi
Male Okapi in captivity at ZooParc de Beauva

The gorillas in the Congo are very important and are endangered, There are estimated to be around 1063 of the mountain gorillas left in the wild.

Did you know that we share around 98% of our DNA with gorillas? That means that if humans come to close and pass on the cold or some other bug it can make them very sick indeed as they don’t have our immunity!

An average mountain gorilla can weigh around 180kg - that’s pretty heavy and can be 170cm tall!

They live for around 35 years, and they eat mostly plants and leaves and shoots. In fact, they eat pretty much all day long!

The gorillas are lead by the biggest and strongest male, and he is called a silverback because the hair on its back changes to a sort of silvery grey as he gets older.

The smaller gorillas will make their beds in the trees, and the others will make a nest in the grass on the ground.

The soils and plants of the Congo Basin feed the animals that inhabit the rainforests and store a vast amount of carbon, preventing it from being emitted into our atmosphere and speeding up climate change!

Small trees are among the oldest in Congolese rainforest

Gorilla | Amazing Animals
Animals of the Congo Basin
Make a Venomous Snake
Make a Venomous Snake (PDF)

Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon Rainforest is the worlds largest tropical rainforest. It is over 5.5million square kilometres!

The Amazon is found in South America and takes in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

Amazon Rainforest Outline
Outline of Amazon Rainforest in South America

The Amazon River runs through the north of the rainforest along with many other smaller waterways. There are many indigenous tribes living in the Amazon Rainforest and it is thought that some have never had any contact with the outside world. That means they have no internet or TV or video games. Quite a different life to ours!

The Yanomami are one such tribe. They live in communities in a Shabono - which is an oval shaped structure where each family unit has its own area to live in.

Shabono Community
Shabono Community

There are many different animals and plants in the Amazon some of which are quite deadly! There are flesh eating piranhas and poison dart frogs and snakes that are highly venomous!

The canopy of the rainforest is so thick and dense that when it rains it can take 10 minute for the water to get from the top to the rainforest floor and large areas of the forest floor are in permanent darkness.

The Amazon Rainforest is home to the Jaguar - one of the last places on earth they can be found in the wild.

Jaguar
Jaguar

There are more than a thousand different species of birds that live here such as hummingbirds and toucans and macaws.

Macaw
Macaw
toucan
Toucan
Macaws are very social birds and quite intelligent. They mate for life and can live for up to 60 years. Being social, they live in flocks of up to 30 birds. Sadly these lovely birds are under threat due to deforestation and because people want them for pets

A most interesting creature that lives in the Amazon is the Sloth! Have a go at making one with the help of our worksheet,

Sloth
Sloth

There are 2 different kinds of sloths, two-toed and three-toed and there are 6 species all of which can be found in the Amazon. However one is critically endangered - the pygmy sloth!

Sloths are very very lazy and the sleep for most of the day. Some even stay in the same tree their entire life! They spend most of their lives upside down hanging from a tree. Not only do they move slowly but their digestive system is incredibly slow too - in fact they only have to poo once a week - the only time they leave their tree!

A very interesting fact about sloths is they are great swimmers! They drop out of the branches into the water and swim around - an ancestor of the sloth was known to have lived in the water so it is thought to be the reason they are such good swimmers.

There are thought to be only 79 pygmy three-toed sloths left which is very worrying!

Young Sloth
Young Sloth

There are many species of frog living in the rainforest. Have a go at making our frogs with the help of the worksheet.

There are Poison Dart Frogs and many different kinds of the Tree Frogs living in the Amazon along with Glass Frogs and Toads.

Poison Dart Frogs have crazy colours and are highly toxic. They are very, very small, some less than 1.5 cm in length.

The most poisonous ones eat lots of ants, mites and termites and this could be why they are so poisonous. The reason they are so brightly coloured is to let potential predators know not to eat them as they will not taste very nice!

Dart Frog
Blue Poison Dart Frog
Make an Amazon Rainforest Sloth
Make an Amazon Rainforest Sloth (PDF)
Amazon: The Lungs Of Our Planet by BBC

Also see our other Home Learning Topics information and our Learning Resources.

If you have enjoyed these activities please share them with your friends and family.